Pedro Fuentes and Charles Rosa (*)
“The struggle of nationalities is one of the aspects of the democratic revolution, and therefore is closely linked with the class struggle. In this movement, as in the democratic one in general, the haute bourgeoisie always tends to yield to the central power. The petite bourgeoisie, however, tends to radical solutions. The example of Catalonia is quite eloquent so that we have to insist on the particular. The proletariat can not ignore the issue. In any national liberation movement is a democratic content, and the proletariat must support it unconditionally. Enemy of all oppression, it would fail the most basic of duties imposed by its historic mission if it didn’t rise up against one of the most pronounced forms of oppression, the national one. “The principle of nationalities – says Lenin – is historically inevitable in bourgeois society, and taking into account this society, Marxism fully recognizes the legitimacy of national movements. But for this recognition not to become an apologia of nationalism, it must be limited strictly only to what is progressive in such movements, so that this recognition does not lead to darkening of proletarian consciousness by bourgeois ideology. “Those who, in the guise of defending internationalism, combat national liberation movements actually play as the exploiting classes of the dominant nation. The Spanish revolutionary who denies the fact of the Catalan nationality and their right to define their fates, practically stands for the absorption of other nationalities by the nation to which he belongs. The International can’t be confused with the March of Cadiz. The fact that there are reactionary national movements is not a reason for the communists to declare as adversaries of them in general. This would be the same as advocating the superiority of the monarchical form over the Republican because of the fact that there are some republics that are more reactionary than some monarchies.”
Andres Nin, Consideraciones sobre el problema de las nacionalidades (1932)
Where to find the ballots to vote “YES”? The answer is simple: in the bakery of your neighborhood. This is one of the examples that attest to the depth of the Catalan revolt. September is forging a democratic revolution, like others that the world witnessed since the French Revolution (February 1917 in Russia, 1931 in Spain, the Arab spring in 2011 etc). In a world order traversed by a dynamic of greater polarization, crisis and chaos, it may be no exaggeration to say that the events of Catalonia are the most important of this twenty-first century, from a revolutionary perspective.
At this time, the need to support the democratic cause claimed by the Catalans unifies progressives, liberals, reformers and revolutionaries around the world. With enough optimism and unity, our duty is to do everything in our power to support the rebellion of Catalonia. Here is a point of unity of action, quite simple and, at the same time, profound. No reasonable democrat would remain silent facing such aggression from the Spanish state against the autonomy of Catalonia. The “bread, peace and land” of our Catalan brothers is assertive: “the democratic right to decide”, the democratic right to rule their own lives, without having to bow to the Spanish monarchy, an outdated institution since the invention of the guillotine. However, this elementary mobilization flag carries an even greater potential as it makes room for another flag. Right to decide … but decide what? The Catalan Independence, the Catalan Republic, a Catalan Constituent Assembly! A Popular Constituent Assembly where direct democracy won by the people on the streets is exercised! A secession from the Spanish state, but not a rupture with the other peoples of Spain and Europe. A higher plane of Republican and, above all, democratic, unity!
The fact that no honest analyst can bypass is that the decision of the Catalan people towards independence is very strong. A popular-democratic movement gained strength on the last months, ranging from the government of Puigdemont / Junqueras / Forcadell and bourgeois sectors discontented with the current Spanish set up towards the traditionally independence organizations, the middle extracts of the population, large sectors of workers and the indignant youth (‘no job, no future, no fear’). The firm resolution to carry forward the referendum is being combated truculently by the monarchical regime, heir of Francoism and vocalized by Rajoy. Even so, the peaceful rebellion keeps getting stronger.
No Civil Guard, the strongest instrument of Spanish oppression, can empty the Catalan streets. No armed coup interference can lower the head of the Catalan insubmissives. The greater proof of that is that the boat carrying the 5,000 guards sent by the Conservative government did not receive the supplies from the port operators, of these workers’ free will. Each new Franco dublê bet to break the backbone of the movement is counteracted by a demonstration of citizen obstinacy of Catalonia.
When Rajoy, the Judiciary and the big media try to demoralize independence forces, universities are occupied by Catalonia and Puigdemont gives a speech encouraging civil disobedience. When the Supreme Court determines that the Mossos de Esquadra close schools to prevent scrutiny on Sunday, the order is solemnly ignored by the Catalan police. In the fateful September 20, when the Spanish Civil Guard invaded the headquarters of the Department of Economics of the Generalitat, to apprehend the organizers of the referendum, a mob surrounded the building to protest the crackdown, destroying three vehicles of the armed body and preventing transit of the invaders for almost 24 hours. The tumult reached a point that the investigating judge of Instrucción 13 of Barcelona, Juan Antonio Ramirez Sunyer, was forced to ask the head of the Mossos, Josep Lluis Trapero, to enable a safety corridor so that the Civil Guard could leave the region.
The leaderships that allowed the progress of the process and the vacillations of the left
A very useful observation on the Catalan process can be made. The independence is more alive than ever for many reasons, involving since the crisis of the Spanish political regime opened by the 15-M 2011, the unilateral disarmament of ETA that ended the threats of terrorism, to the possibilities of a separation turning more lucrative for a wing of the bourgeoisie of Catalonia.
Catalan independence rests on solid popular and workers’ foundations and a long linguistic tradition and historical confrontation with the Bourbon monarchy. This is what made possible for the idea of Catalan people’s independence, with its long tradition of struggle, to emerge strongly the democratic popular mobilization. And Rajoy’s authoritarian response unleashed the democratic revolution now underway.
But there is also a subjective element that can not be neglected. Undirected, a spontaneous process advances in selforganization process but it only realizes its transformative potential if there’s a leadership. The circumstances allowed a leadership to carry the process to the critical point where it is today. A combination of increasingly larger Diadas and the relocation of the old Convergencia in the separatist camp, strengthening the Esquerra Republicana and the correct policy of CUP paved the rise of Puigdemont to the local power.
Before Madrid’s refusal to negotiate Puidgemont, Forcadell and Junqueras, critically supported by the CUP were consistent to take Catalonia to disobedience, whatever the coming threat of Madrid was. This set them as the leaders of the independence process. Although we do not know what will happen after 1-O, up until now Puigdemont got the leadership of the rupture process and was consistent with the line of Catalan self-determination.
Except CUP and the honorable exceptions of Aurora and Revolta Global, the Spanish and Catalan socialist left woefully lacked the tenacity. While the CUP anticapitalist played an important role in the defense of a Catalan Republic, other militant organizations slipped on some not very energetic and / or abstractly legalistic positions. In the case of half of “Catalunya si que Pot”, it was openly a betrayal. Podemos itself, the main tool for change wrought by the Spaniards in recent years, was slow to take advantage of breaches opened by the Catalan independence: while Rajoy organized repression, with the shameful complicity of PSOE, Podemos issued warnings against Puigdemont’s “unilateralism’.
The absurdity that the truculence on 20-S represented certainly changed the situation and Podemos assumed the campaign and took action on the Catalans’ ‘right to decide’. Under the policy of unity of workers and the Spanish people against the economic adjustment, Podemos ignored that a rupture of Catalonia could increase agitation throughout the whole country; an element that will be the key one on whether a movement against the adjustment wins or not.
Pablo Iglesias decided in an election way out in Spain to overcome the stalemate, when a rebellion in Catalonia was brewing with conditions to weaken their opponents.
The meaning of the Catalan rebellion for Europe and the world
The history of the struggle against capitalist domination suggests that there are always weak links in the global order in which the revolutionaries can intervene and strike more easily. They are arm wrestling between mass movements and forces of reaction. And that is what makes the Catalan process a precious opportunity for leftist organizations. The attack on democratic freedoms invariably responds to a need of the imperialist bourgeoisie in its strategy to pursue economic counterrevolution against the rights historically won by the oppressed, in order to maximize profits in all spheres of material life.
Thus, the cut on social rights and the trampling of democratic conquests are the two legs of the imperialist plan that is leading humanity and the planet to civilizational collapse.
Hence the end of the arm wrestling between Catalonia and Castilian monarchy will be critical for future global trends to emerge from the critical global impasse in which we live. Hence also the big step that has already been taken in Iraqi Kurdistan with the massive vote for YES on the plebiscite called by Barzani. Who can have any doubt that this is also a fundamental support for Rojava and all Kurdish independence movements in Iran, Turkey and Syria? A weak link also begins to open in the Middle East against bloodthirsty Bashar, against totalitarian Erdogan. Can we ask the brash Trump; now where is he going to send his super bomb in this region?
American decadence (symbolized the most by the decrepitude of its mega bourgeois entrepreneur, rude, jester and racist President) stands out, while China and Russia seek to jut out their neoimperialism by the geopolitical vacuum bequeathed by the capitalist crisis of 2008, not yet surpassed by the central countries. Within national realities, peoples and workers are getting organized courageously to answer this delicate situation of permanent attacks on their acquired rights.
And the insurgent Catalonia could not be different, starring the forefront of global resistance, as it already did in the past.
Here it is worth to mention the streets of Barcelona, which breathe an insurgent memory woven since the turn of the nineteenth century to the twentieth, when rebellions wouldn’t stop rising. As Orwell and Hemingway recorded, it is in this Catalonia where the great bastion of ultimate strength of the civil war will rise, where the revolutionaries reached a mass weight by means of an antiStalinist left, as the POUM and FAI-CNT, and via democratic unions armed enough to fight. Neither the long night of the Franco regime was able to cut that thread of consciousness.
Today, Barcelona pulses cosmopolitanism, being the most open to refugees and migrants city in the world. Neither the ISIS bombing in August changed that: small xenophobic groups were barred from expressin their imbecility by the very people. This solidarity and authentic profile is synthesized in the football club Barcelona, the most beloved in the planet.
Such cosmopolitan identity makes the possible Catalan victory a huge political setback for the EU imperialist bourgeoisie. Brussels leadership has been suffering successive scuffs on its stability. Less than a year ago UK decided to leave the bloc. Less than a few months ago the French punished the two main parties of the Fifth Republic. Less than a few days ago Merkel saw her store of votes be considerably diminished in favor of an extreme-right force, being today the third bench of the Bundestag. Adding to the picture of instability on EU, but in the reverse direction, the Catalan independence brings on its shoulder a democratic revolution. We expect something similar to happen in the Middle East with the independence of Kurdistan.
If the Catalans impose their will to secede against century-old monarchical domination, French workers will feel more entitled to resist Macron’s neoliberal package. So it will be in every corner where austerity plans are being gestated or executed, demonstrating once again that the European Union represents the financism and corporations’ interests and not workers’.
Intermediaries phenomena like Corbyn and Mélenchon, Sanders will have a much more favorable environment to become even more credible towards the masses: when people want something and get mobilized, there is no oppressive regime that can crush that determination. In short, if Catalonia wins, democratic struggles throughout the world will have a tailwind. On the other hand, if Catalonia stops on its way, authoritarian and centralizing tendencies gain new impetus.
Democratic slogans, the Republican Constituent Assembly and permanent revolution
But the Catalan case includes another issue: the democratic slogans and the commitment that revolutionaries must have with them without any qualm. Let’s explain better. In Barcelona, in Damascus, in Luanda, in Caracas, etc., rupture processes assayed in the twenty-first century and the failed experiences in the twentieth century forced the revolutionaries to take the defense of democratic flags as a matter of life or death.
It’s impossible to stumble over the issue of “distribution” of power. In a time when a dozen corporations and mega-investors appropriate the destinies of mankind, being the champions of the democratization of decision making means is an essential condition to dispute the power of the left in our time. It will be the clash between oligopolies and democracy that will spark a revolutionary process that can turn towards the social structures. And these slogans can’t be abandoned to the bourgeoisie.
In this regard, we should point out the contradiction of those who correctly condemn the authoritarianism of the Spanish right and, at the same time, support what Maduro and PSUV’s bureaucracy has done against the democratic essence of Bolivarianism, expressed in Chavez’s Constitution shattered by the strokes of falsehoods by this artificial Constituent Assembly. Maduro is sweeping democratic freedoms and that’s not something minor. We praise the Maduro’s supporters that care about atacking the monarchical-Francoist authoritarianism. However, that stance is completely opposite to its full concurrence with degeneration of the Bolivarian process. “An independent government of confrontation towards imperialism” as characterize the Madurists, does not crush the people’s freedom and delivers parcels of the country’s natural resources for tens of imperialist corporations. The mobilization of the masses against Catalan imperialism has nothing to do with the use of military courts for protesters in Venezuela. Catalan’s civil disobedience has nothing to do with a leadership agreement with the damn MUD’s opposition, which is being tailored in Santo Domingo these days.
This late campismo of our peers is, in reality, a fake campismo that may have a very high price in the consciousness of the masses, as it dresses the rhetoric of a ‘socialist’ costume while it practices Bonapartist methods that attack the popular interest. We arrived at a crossroads in Catalonia and Venezuela: one can either support democratic freedoms or be against them!
Obviously, if the democratic gains do not advance for economic equality, almost everything is to be done. Freedom and material equality of the working masses are inseparable in our strategic horizon. And the right of oppressed nations to become independent of the yoke of parasitic imperialisms is a fundamental part of the democratic struggle.
The “real democracy” and the Constituent Assembly Republican
Like every national liberation movement, the Catalan independence is broader than an anticapitalist movement. This means that other classes besides the proletariat are acting in favor of the referendum. That requires the anticapitalists of Catalonia audacity to take the democratic demands until their last consequences, in this case the independence and the birth of the Catalan Republic.
If popular mobilization takes the rupture process until the end then a call to the Republican Constituent Assembly will take place. At this point it can be repeated in Catalonia, in a bested way, the constituent assemblies that occurred in Venezuela and Ecuador. The question raised is who will be the legitimate representatives of the people in the new Constituent Assembly; and at that point will emerge as an objective fact and the slogan of the real democracy of ‘indignados’ [indigant] can be conected to it, direct democracy of the people. In these decisive days surely is advancing the popular self-organization of the movement, of the committees to ensure Sunday’s vote; of the students and labor organizations for independence and in many ways that are surely arising. The hurricane for independence will sweep all parties against independence, PSC, Ciudadanos and PP.
The people legitimately want to have their voice in the Constituent Assembly (mobilized teachers, students, workers, neighbors), and they can get it in this process of struggle a genuine and legitimate direct representation. Those who lead the mobilization can have a strong voice to plant in Catalonia this second step that is critical to advancing the permanence of mobilization and challenge the bourgeoisie about the social republic workers and the Catalan people want.
Here the theory of Permanent Revolution helps us like no other. But you can not abstract and apply mechanically the writings of León Trotsky, as some poor readers of his works do. It’s necessary to crumble, in the light of the historical phase in which we live, all dimensions and phases of processes that break from the concrete reality. The dynamics of permanent revolution need to be approached dialectically, as the complex combinations between democratic goals and socialist goals, between direct democracy and social equality. In this sense, the message of Karl Marx to the Communist League in 1850, means more to 2017’s catalans than any other Marxist text. Let’s see:
“ We have seen how the next upsurge will bring the democrats to power and how they will be forced to propose more or less socialistic measures. it will be asked what measures the workers are to propose in reply. At the beginning, of course, the workers cannot propose any directly communist measures. But the following courses of action are possible:
1. They can force the democrats to make inroads into as many areas of the existing social order as possible, so as to disturb its regular functioning and so that the petty-bourgeois democrats compromise themselves; furthermore, the workers can force the concentration of as many productive forces as possible – means of transport, factories, railways, etc. – in the hands of the state.
2. They must drive the proposals of the democrats to their logical extreme (the democrats will in any case act in a reformist and not a revolutionary manner) and transform these proposals into direct attacks on private property. If, for instance, the petty bourgeoisie propose the purchase of the railways and factories, the workers must demand that these railways and factories simply be confiscated by the state without compensation as the property of reactionaries. If the democrats propose a proportional tax, then the workers must demand a progressive tax; if the democrats themselves propose a moderate progressive tax, then the workers must insist on a tax whose rates rise so steeply that big capital is ruined by it; if the democrats demand the regulation of the state debt, then the workers must demand national bankruptcy. The demands of the workers will thus have to be adjusted according to the measures and concessions of the democrats. (…) Their battle-cry must be: The Permanent Revolution.”
It is not enough to make a “Tribute to Catalonia”, we have to learn from Catalonia !!!
Brazil can draw good lessons from 1-O. Within the framework of a rotten political regime and an acute social crisis, the extreme right-wing alternatives (Bolsonaro or even the rumors of a military intervention coming from nostalgic generals of the dictatorship) grow in broad depoliticized sectors of the population. The inertia of the vanguard, whose good part did not break its umbilical cords with the PT, in having politics mainly for the democratic pattern of corruption is causing the left to lose by WO in the twilight of the New Republic.
The appalling location of the non-PT left in relation to Lava Jato, obliterating its undeniable democratic and anti-capitalist components (in spite of the vices of bourgeois Justice itself), left an orphan against the spurious relations of professional politicians with the Brazilian bourgeoisie , which could perfectly well be hegemonized by a radical coalition of popular organizations.
The refusal to dispute the contradictions of the bourgeoisie in the mass movement made, so far, a new cycle of the Brazilian left was stuck. Just as we can delay in positioning against the monarchy in the Catalan question, the left here does not lead a massive struggle against the regime because it despised the fight against corruption as a strange pattern to social movements. To free oneself from the political castes will demand from the Brazilian people a process of rupture, a true democratic revolution.
Will our Brazilian and world left be ready for that? We think so, because you can learn a lot. To paraphrase the title of George Orwell’s book, it is not enough just to make a “Tribute to Catalonia”, we have to learn from Catalonia
(*) International Commission of MES-PSOL